McMillan the Hunter: Woodsy Student or Ph.D. Professor?
By: Lynn Burkhead
Watch Tom McMillan's deer hunting show on Sportsman Channel and it might be easy to assume that he's a bona fide whitetail hunting expert; thing is, he doesn't always agree with that assessment
After years of chasing whitetails - from his own days as a hunter to his current job of running a successful whitetail hunting camp to filming a highly popular Sportsman Channel television show - it would seem Tom McMillan is something of an expert on deer hunting.
But even now, after all of these years and so many successful hunts, he begs to differ.
"One tip I give to people is to (tell them) to be willing and to be able to listen to others (deer hunting) advice," said McMillan. "You know, nobody is an expert, nobody is an expert as much as they want to be or can be."
And that includes Tom McMillan, the co-host of #DeerWeek, a role that McMillan is fulfilling along with his hunting buddy and TV pal Michael Waddell.
"That (advice) goes for all of us," said McMillan. "Different parts of the (same) region can have different (deer hunting) tactics that work. They can have different movement patterns that (local) whitetails use."
As an example of this idea, the Kansas deer hunting guru points to his reality deer hunting show, called by his last name of McMillan, a project that he admits might have been more difficult to pull off than he first imagined a few years ago.
While the show has been popular and award-winning caliber since Day One, there has still been a considerable learning curve to master.
What would McMillan change if he had a do-over on the show? He'd go back and learn more from others that might have helped him miss a few bumps along the road.
Then again, he realizes that each bump in that journey has been a good learning opportunity, something that is true in both outdoors television production and in deer hunting.
"Sometimes, the bad news is that I've learned the hard way," smiled McMillan. "And the good news is? That I've learned the hard way."
It's easy for most deer hunters to understand that sentiment since deer hunting is often a school of hard knocks from boring down time when nothing is moving to inclement or unseasonable weather that affects current deer behavior to an unexpected wind shift to a vehicle driving by and spooking the deer feeding out in a field.
Add in the element of trying to hunt big mature bucks - a tough enough chore in and of itself - by climbing into a treestand with a cameraman in tow to record the action and tell an entertaining hunt story and the hunt gets even more difficult to pull off.
"It's not like we're going deer shopping, we're going deer hunting," said McMillan with another smile.
Which is a good reason that it often pays off for hunters - from McMillan himself to those of us who envy his whitetail hunting career - to listen to the hard-earned advice of others, perhaps even from someone who serves as a deer hunting mentor and/or guide of sorts.
And that's something that's true no matter what, whether you're the lead man on a popular television show or just hoping to climb into a treestand on the Back 40 and tag the biggest buck in the neighborhood.
"You've got to be able to listen to others and to learn from others to be a better whitetail hunter," said McMillan.
And if the co-host of Deer Week finds that to be true, imagine how much more so it is for the rest of us weekend whitetail warriors that dream big antlered dreams of an autumn bruiser stepping out and stopping in front of our stand only 25 yards away.